Minutes online saves time
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Sep 13, 2002
Several years ago, when resident Murray Craig had a conflict with the city
council of Langley, a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, he turned to
technology. He created software that enabled him to examine all of his city's
public records quickly and thoroughly, make connections and prove that a
couple of council members were abusing their power.
Now, Craig and the company he founded, eNeuralNet Inc., a California-based
artificial intelligence software company, is parlaying that invention into
a Web-based service that will allow individuals to quickly search through
public records mainly city and town council minutes from across the nation.
On Sept. 23, the company will launch the Minutes-n-Motion service and
Web site (www.minutesnmotion.com) at San
Francisco's City Hall. Greg Guss, a company spokesman, said San Francisco's
council minutes and other public records for the past 12 years as well as
similar public records of 10 other Bay Area communities would be available.
By mid-2003, the company hopes to have such records online from every
municipality that has a population of 100,000 or more.
Guss said people would be able to easily search through council minutes
to research the history of a piece of property, how an elected official
voted on a particular issue, or, as in the case with Craig, try to hold
Although many municipalities have posted such public records on the
Web for free, the company is charging $9.95 per month for unlimited access.
Guss said the service is aimed at public watchdog organizations, media and
active residents who might jump at the chance to easily search through digital
reams of public information.
"If you want to read every document from San Francisco, we estimated
it'll take something like 20 years to read them," he said. But through the
service, he said users can cut through all those documents by searching
via name, address, bylaw, council member or company. When a hit occurs,
users would view a source document, not just a summary, he said.
The company has been able to download most documents from municipal
Web sites, but sometimes the company has requested local governments to
send records. In the case of Oakland, Calif., the company itself is scanning
minutes into digital form, Guss said.
In the future, the company is considering adding campaign finance information,